February 5, 2009

Badgers defeat Illini, end losing streak

MADISON, Wis. - For the Wisconsin men's basketball team, Thursday night was more like it used to be.

Junior Jason Bohannon drilled his first six shots from beyond the arc before finally missing in the second half, Marcus Landry dominated the paint, both offensively and on the glass and Jon Leuer chipped in an aggressive 15 points as the Badgers tasted victory for the first time in nearly a month by defeating Illinois 63-50 at the Kohl Center.

"We've had times in game where we had a three or four minute stretch where we didn't necessarily play Wisconsin basketball," Bohannon, who's 87.5 percent shooting clip from beyond the arc set a new Kohl Center record, said following the game. "Tonight we played a full 40 minutes and that really paid off with us and having a comfortable lead towards the end of the game."

In the early stages of the game, it did not seem like the Badgers would have the success they eventually did. The Illini, a team that has yet to win a road game since its conference opening victory at Purdue, jumped on Wisconsin with a quick 7-2 run to start the contest.

"I wanted to be aggressive and attack them," Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said following his team's loss. "We pushed the ball early and got some easy baskets, but then we didn't take good shots."

The Badgers defense had something to do with that. After falling behind by five, UW held Illinois to 1-of-10 shooting over the next seven minutes as it opened a lead it would never relinquish.

"If you're taking certain things away and they're not doing something effectively, then you don't have to alter or change a hedge or do some things," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "So I thought we stuck to the rules pretty well."

In the first half, the Badgers forced five Illini turnovers that led five UW points. At the same clip, Wisconsin limited its own turnovers and thus was able to expand on its lead, something that was lacking during the losing streak.

"Before, losing games came down to the final few possession, us making mistakes or the other team getting hot," Landry, who finished with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, said. "In those games, I believe we also had a lead but to today we maintained our lead.

"That's why we were successful."

Shortly after Bohannon hit his sixth three of the game nearly three minutes into the second half, he stole a lazy pass from Mike Davis and found himself with a wide-open lane to the rim.

With the night he was having, Bohannon rose up for a dunk attempt, but was unable to finish the slam.

Illinois recovered the loose ball and went on a quick 5-0 run to cut the Badger lead from 15 to 10 in a 16 second span.

"Well, I always tell him he can't jump anyways," Landry kidded after the game. "I guess he felt like he was flying today and he went up for the dunk. He could have had 22."

Instead, the sharpshooter finished with 20 points, tying his career high that he set in UW's last win before the six-game slump.

After the quick turn of events following the missed dunk, however, Ryan called a timeout to settle his squad. It was that type of negative momentum that has haunted the Badgers over the past month, but Thursday night proved to be different as Wisconsin never let Illinois back within single digits.

"We had a tough stretch there," Bohannon said of the losing streak. "There were a lot of games when we were right in it, but didn't pull it out. Tonight we got a lot better at the things we were struggling at earlier.

"Hopefully we can take that on to the next game and get a little streak out of it."

Quick notes:

-Sophomore Jon Leuer made his first collegiate start in relief of Keaton Nankvil who suffered an ankle injury at the end of Wednesday's practice. Leuer finished with 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting and also logged six rebounds.

-Junior guard Trevon Hughes finished the game scoreless, but he had three assists and only one turnover during the game. He also recorded four steals in 37 minutes of action.

-Bohannon's six made three-point shots tied his previous career high that was set at Indiana a season ago. By doing it at home, he set a Kohl Center record for best shooting percentage from distance with a minimum of six attempts. He also finished second in school history for single-game shooting percentage from beyond the arc, only trailing Larry Hisle's 7-for-7 shooting night in 1990.

-Illinois' Demetri McCamey, who finished with 25 points in the first meeting against UW was held to only 12 on 5-for-9 shooting.

-Mike Davis led the Illini in scoring with 14 points as he joined McCamey as the only double-digit Illinois scorers in Thursday's game.

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